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Loss and a tiny rowing boat

Today was a glorious sunshine day - one of the hottest days of the year so far. It was a joy to be out enjoying blue skies and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I felt carefree and light. Today was an easy to be part of kind of day. As I walked in town, I passed a group of people huddled together. It was as if they were seeking warmth from the closeness of each other. And actually they were. Their black outfits gave away their purpose and a young woman elegantly dressed was holding on tightly to a bunch of beautiful deep red roses. Beyond them I saw the hearse and besides the coffin inside, the words Nana inscribed in white flowers. My own lightness faded for a moment. I was sad. Today these people, complete strangers to me, would feel the weight of sadness that comes from losing someone close to you. Tonight, a daughter will be missing her mum and a grandchild her precious Nana as well as anyone else connected to Nana.

But why should I feel sad. I have no connection to these people and yet I did feel it. I felt it because I know what it is like to lose someone close to you. I know the weight that can come from that loss. I know the sadness of waking each day with the knowledge that someone you love is gone and you'll never experience all the things you loved about them again. Thankfully I had no regrets, no guilt or other negatives associated with my own mother's death but I did hold on far too tightly when she was gone even though I thought I'd let her go. In the months after,  I thought it would be good to be strong. It wasn't.  I thought it was good not to show my vulnerability. It wasn't. Others tried to help and support me - I told them I was fine. Often I wasn't. I tried to resist grief, but grief had other thoughts. It took me by the hand and said I will have my time with you whether you like it or not. That was the bit I hadn't understood. Somehow I thought that I could bypass grief, by simply carrying on but that's not how it works or not in my experience.

After my mother's death I also experienced another form of loss. I lost sight of who I was, what I stood for and why I was here, so not only had I lost her, but I'd lost myself too along the way. At times, it felt like I was stranded in a small rowing boat on the ocean. Whichever direction I looked, all I could see was water and I had no idea which way I should paddle - which way would lead me to dry land and rescue. But there was no beacon, no rescue party, no map - there was just me in this little rowing boat, going round and round in circles. That was hard. In many ways I felt like I was grieving for me too and the person I'd once been. I wanted the old me back, but once again life had other plans, it wanted me to learn and grow from these experiences. It needed me to realise that I was my own rescue party and that with a change of perspective, I could be in a luxury yacht with crew and a full navigation system. Initially, once again I resisted. I'd become attached to the little rowing boat. Sometimes I still fall back into that boat but now at least I ensure it's got an on-board motor.

So what does it all mean? I could speculate but I can only share how it affected me. Loss is something we generally all have to deal with and it is a very personal experience. The loss of my mother has led me to explore new paths and be open to new experiences and emotions. I have walked along with grief hand in hand. It is not an easy journey but it was a necessary one.


  1. Angela,
    Thanks for your post. I appreciate the picture you so aptly painted of grief. Stubborn grief, grief that will not be ignored without us denying who we are. I also appreciated the fact you pointed out more than the one type of grief and how it can steal who we are. Great job.

    1. Anne, thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I appreciate it.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Hi, I owe you an apology. In a fat fingered fumble this morning, I managed to accidentally delete your comment and despite looking at ways to restore it, my technological skills have not managed it. I did read your comment yesterday and remember that you had lost your father recently and I hope that you are working your way through your own grief. One of the lessons that I learned along my own journey (although it took time for me to reach this position) was about giving myself permission. Permission to grieve, permission to be kind to myself, permission to turn down social events if I didn't feel up to it. It was quite hard and I didn't always succeed but once I gave myself permission, I would often feel the weight of it release a little. I wish you well and I'm sure that you have many happy and cherished memories of your dad.

  3. Angela, I could have written just the same words... if I had enough of a clear mind.
    My mum lost her battle with cancer six years ago. There isn't one single day that I don't miss her. And yes, your image of the little rowing boat in the middle of the ocean is exactly like I feel, although there had been moments in the past years where I felt a lot worse than now.

    I think when you experience such life changing grif, you will never be able to stand and not feel anything for people who are going through the same. I always feel powerless, because as you said, there is nothign you can do but going with that grif hand to hand and learn to accept it and see what good it brings to you... even if there are moments you think there's nothing, nothing nothing good about it. I wish I could just project my experience to other people and relief at least of a part of the grif, but I know it's impossible.

    Still, sometimes I try anyway.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly here. I think you and I both lost our mums in the same year in 2008 and both through cancer. So although we may be miles apart, I feel your connection. Although I still miss my mum, I acknowlege that there have been some positives from my experiences and if I can share that with others and help them in some way, all the better and I'm sure you will too. One of the great gifts I inherited from my mum was writing. She loved to write and it's only since her death that I have come to embrace writing in my life. I am so thankful for that. I wish you well and look forward to further connections with you.

    2. Yes, it was 2008.
      There's nothing positive in losing a person you love. But when you start coming out of the grif, when you start that healing process, that's when you can receive something positive even from this experience. After all, death is part of life.

  4. Thank you, Angela, for sharing this with us. I, too, cling to my little rowing boat instead of launching out into the wide world---I could be in a larger, wind-propelled sailboat? ---taking risks to be me.

  5. Go for it Laura. Choose a luxury Liner if you want, fully staffed and of course with a special writing room equipped exactly to your requirements!

  6. Thank you, Angela, for sharing this. I appreciate your words. I still feel waves of grief for my mom, my dad, and my cat, who lived to be 21. Those waves will always come, but there's such healing in sharing. For so many years, I wasn't able to talk about the loss of my dad, who died when I was 15. When I was finally able to open up and share, around age 42, my healing journey began. Thank you for sharing with us. Janet

  7. Janet - thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I am sorry to hear of your losses and having lost my own darling cat of 22 years in the last few weeks, I know how difficult it can be to lose a treasured pet as well as family members. I hope that you are coming to terms with your losses and I wish you well on your healing journey.


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